Thursday, September 10, 2009

Coal, renewables and the CO2 meter

How Sri Lanka is increasing its Carbon emission?

Add Image
Hemantha Withanage,
Centre for Environmental Justice

Sri Lanka is already building a Chinese funded 900 Megawatt coal power plant in the Western coast of the island and plans are being made to build a joint venture 1000MW coal power plant with India’s National Thermal Power Corporation in the Eastern coast. Meanwhile, India and Sri Lanka will be linked with a 100MW energy supply cable under the Asian Development Bank funds. India, China and Australia are eyeing to sell their coal to Sri Lanka.

Australia is also planning to sell a 300 MW Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) power plant. Although LNG is cleaner, there is no single LNG power plant in Sri Lanka.

Solar power is the most expensive energy in the country. Some poor families in the remote areas, who have obtained solar energy, pay Rs. 70,000 in a 2 year period to light 3 bulbs and a B/W Television. Government has no tariff reductions for these renewable yet.

Mini-hydro plants’ estimated generation capacity would be 97.7 MW. However some mini-hydro power plants are more harmful to the Environment. Total Hydropower generation by the big reservoirs is around 1207 MW. However this is vulnerable to the climate change.

According to the sources Sri Lanka’s next best natural resource after the hydro power is wind power because of the Monsoon winds across the country. Sri Lankan government is planning to build the country’s second wind power plant, which is expected to generate 10MW of power. The country’s first wind power plant established in Hambantota which is generating about 3MW is not a very successful one.

Sri Lanka, is in a long debate on coal versus best alternatives. Coal power plant originally proposed in Trincomalee in 1985 was then moved to Mawella, Negombo and Norochocholai.

According to some CEB sources, present Coal power plant, financed by the Chinese government, is very costly. A unit of this coal power will be around 40 rupees. According to the sources CEB will only pay Rs. 18 while the balance would be subsidized by the government. The plant does not install the best available technology.

300 MW plant will require 2640 MT of coal daily. As we have indicated many times the 900 W coal power plant will burn 7920 MT daily. Each tonne of Coal produces 7186 pounds of CO2 assuming that 98% of the coal combustion happens. So the Norochcholai Coal plant will emit 28456 tonnes CO2 daily. This calculations show that 900 MW Coal plant will result Sri Lanka increase CO2 to 0.5 tonnes per capita.

Proposed total coal power generation capacity of Sri Lanka is around 3300 MW. According to the above calculations Sri Lanka will emit 2 tonnes per capita CO2 annually. Chinese and Indians financed coal power plants alone will increase Sri Lanka’s contribution to 1 tonnes per capita CO2.To put this in context, national average emissions in UK is 10 tonnes per capita. The UK government has pledged to cut emissions by 20% before 2012, to around 8 tonnes per capita. This forms part of the Kyoto Protocol to reduce global climate change.

It is estimated that the sustainable CO2 emission quota per capita for each of 6 billion global inhabitants is 2 tonnes per annum. This means once Sri Lanka produces coal energy using 3300 MW coal plants, we will reach the sustainable level of CO2 emissions.

According to the Energy Forum Sri Lanka’s CO2 emissions have increased by 230% over the last 20 years: the world’s third highest rate. Therefore there is no doubt that the government must seriously review its policies, targets and plans for establishing 3300 MW of coal power plants in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately that is not the case.

The authorities argue that Sri Lanka can still increase its CO2 emissions, since we only emit 600 kg which is far below the proposed sustainable level. However once we reach the CO2 level only with Coal power there is no provision for other development.

Despite the CO2 emission Coal prices have also increased several times parallel to the oil prices. Those who debated for the Coal power argued that Coal energy will be the cheapest for the country. Since we do not have our own coal beds, we are unable to control the prices.

Sri Lanka still depends, for 70% of energy from Biomass. We also had many wind mills introduced 3 decades ago to draw water. The potential for wind, solar and wave energy is enormous in Sri Lanka. However, the coal and diesel lobby in Sri Lanka does not allow making our energy sustainable

No comments: